“Of course,” Daemon said, smiling reassuringly. “We’ll be fine, Ash.”
I pinched my thigh. He doesn’t want her. He doesn’t want her. He doesn’t want her. That helped.
“I trust you,” Ash said, eyes latched to his adoringly. Like Daemon was a saint or something.
I pinched my thigh harder. I’m going to hit her. I’m going to hit her. I’m going to hit her. That didn’t help.
Blake cleared his throat. “Anyway, Luc said there’s an old farm at the bottom of the access road. We should be able to park the cars there.”
“Sounds good.” Dawson stepped back, placing his hands on his hips. A lock of hair fell forward. “Once we’re there, we have fifteen minutes, right?”
Daemon nodded. “According to the tween mafia leader, Luc, that’s what we have.”
“And this kid is trustworthy?” Matthew asked.
“I can speak for him.”
I looked at Blake. “That’s a ringing endorsement.”
His cheeks flushed. “He’s trustworthy.”
“Do you think it’s enough time?” Dawson asked his brother. “To get in there, get to Beth and Chris, and get out?”
“It should be.” Daemon folded up the map and slid it into his back pocket. “You’ll get Beth and dipshit here will get Chris.”
Blake rolled his eyes.
“Andrew, Kat, and I are going to cover them. This shouldn’t even take fifteen minutes.” Daemon sat beside me and leveled a pointed glare at Blake. “And then you will take Chris and get the hell out of here. You have no reason to come back.”
“And what if he does?” Dee asked. “What if he finds another excuse to blackmail you into helping him?”
“I won’t,” Blake said, and I felt his stare. “I don’t have a reason to come back.”
Daemon went taut. “If you do, you’re going to make me do something I don’t want to do—I’ll probably enjoy it, but I don’t want to.”
Blake jerked his chin. “I got you.”
“Okay then,” Matthew said, addressing the room. “We meet here at six thirty tomorrow. Do you have things covered, Katy?”
I nodded. “Mom thinks I’m doing a sleepover with Lesa. She works anyway.”
“She always works,” Ash said, staring at her nails. “Does she even like to be home?”
Unsure if that was a dig or not, I kept my temper in check. “She’s paying for a mortgage, food, bills, and all my expenses by herself. She has to work a lot.”
“Maybe you should get a job,” she suggested, her eyes flicking up. “Like something after school that takes about twenty hours or so of your life.”
I folded my arms, lips pursed. “Why are you suggesting that, pray tell?”
A catlike smile appeared as her attention slid to beside me. “I just think if you were concerned about your mom making ends meet, you would help out.”
“I’m sure that’s why.” I relaxed when Daemon slid a hand across my back.
Ash noticed the gesture and got a sour pinch to her lips.
“There’s only one thing we have to worry about,” Blake said, as if it really was only one thing that could go wrong. “They have emergency doors that shut every so many feet when alarms are sounded. Those doors also have a defensive weapon. Don’t go near the blue lights. They’re lasers. Rip you right apart.”
All of us stared. Wow, yeah, that was a big problem.
Blake smiled. “But they shouldn’t be a problem. We should be in and out without being seen.”
“Okay,” Andrew said slowly. “Anything else? Like an onyx net we have to worry about?”
Blake laughed. “No, that should cover it.”
Dee wanted Blake out once the plans were underway. Without protest, he headed to the door and stopped as if he were going to say something. I felt his gaze once more, but then he left. Our group disbanded, leaving the siblings behind.
I clasped my hands together. “I want to practice the speed thing. I mean, I know I can do it as fast as you guys, but I just want to practice.”
Dee focused on the arm of the couch, drawing in a deep breath.
“We can do that.” Dawson smiled crookedly. “I could use the practice myself.”
Daemon stretched back, wrapping an arm around my waist. “It’s a little dark right now. You’ll probably end up breaking your neck, but we can do it tomorrow.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“You got it.”
I elbowed him as I turned to Dee. She was still staring at the furniture like it held the answer to something. Here goes nothing. “Will…will you help?”
She opened her mouth and then closed it, shaking her head. Then, without saying a word, she pivoted around and headed upstairs. I deflated.
“She’ll come around,” Daemon said, giving me a little squeeze. “I know she will.”
Doubted that, but I nodded. Dee was never going to come around. I don’t know why I even bothered.
Dawson sat on my other side, confusion marking his expression. “I don’t know what happened to her while I was gone. I don’t understand.”
I pressed my lips together. I happened.
“We all changed, brother.” Daemon tugged me back so I was against his side. “But things… Things are going to get back to normal soon.”
He watched us, brows drawn tight. Sorrow crept into his eyes, dulling their vibrant color. I wondered what he thought when he saw us together. Memories of him and Beth cuddled together on the couch? Then he blinked and a wan smile appeared. “Ghost Investigators marathon?”
“You do not have to ask me twice.” Daemon raised his hand and the remote control shot toward him. “I have, like, six hours saved up. Popcorn? We need popcorn.”
“And ice cream.” Dawson stood. “I get the munchies.”
The wall clock read seven thirty. It was going to be a long night, but as I settled in next to Daemon, I realized I didn’t want to be any place else.
Daemon brushed his lips along my cheek as he reached behind us, tugging a blanket off the back of the couch. He draped it over both of us, allowing most of the blanket to swallow me. “He’s coming around, isn’t he?”
I turned to him, smiling. “Yeah, he is.”
His eyes met mine. “Let’s just make sure tomorrow doesn’t make it all for nothing.”
By one o’clock the following day, I was covered in mud and sweating like a pig in hell. I’d done better than I feared, able to keep up easily with Dawson and I only fell, like…four times. The terrain was unforgiving.
I walked past Daemon, and he made a swipe for me. I shot him a level look, which he returned with a mischievous grin.
“You have dirt on your cheek,” he said. “Cute.”
As usual, he looked perfect. Hadn’t even broken a sweat for crying out loud. “Is he always this annoyingly good?”
Dawson, who looked as rough as I did, nodded. “Yeah, he’s the best at this kind of stuff—fighting, running, physical stuff.”
His brother beamed as I knocked the mud off my sneakers and said, “You suck.”
I stuck my tongue out and returned to stand next to the brothers. We were at the edge of the woods that ran up to my front yard. I took a couple of deep breaths and welcomed the Source rushing through me. That roller-coaster feeling was back and my muscles locked up.
“Get ready,” Daemon said, hands curling at his sides. “Go!”
Pushing off, I dug my feet into the ground, then raced against the brothers. Air whipped around me as I picked up speed. Now that I knew to watch out for rotted branches and stones, I kept my eyes trained on the ground and my surroundings. The wind bit at my cheeks, but it was a good kind of sting. It meant I was fast.
Trees blurred as I darted around them and under low-hanging branches. Jumping over bushes and boulders, I moved ahead of Dawson. The speed tore at my hair, pulling it free from my ponytail. A laugh escaped my throat. As I ran, I forgot about the stupid jealousy, the lingering issue of Will, and even what we had to do later that night.
Running like this, as fast as the wind, was freeing.
Daemon blew past us, reaching the stream a good ten seconds before we did. Slowing down was an issue. You couldn’t just stop, not at this speed. You’d face-plant into the ground in seconds. So I dug my feet in, kicking up sediment and loose rock as I slid the last few inches.
Daemon’s arm shot out, wrapping around my waist so I didn’t end up in the lake. Laughing, I spun around and reached up, kissing his cheek.
He grinned. “Your eyes are glowing.”
“Really—like yours do? The whole diamond shining thing?”
Dawson stopped, knocking the mop of hair off his forehead. “Nah, just the color’s luminous. It’s pretty.”
“It’s beautiful,” Daemon corrected. “But you better be careful not to do that in front of people.” When I nodded, he walked over to his brother, clapping him on his back. “Why don’t we call it quits? Both of you are good to go, and I’m starving.”
A thrill of pride sparked inside me until I remembered how important tonight would be. I couldn’t be the weakest link. “You guys go ahead and head back. I’m going to do some more runs.”
“Yep. I want to run circles around you.”
“Never going to happen, Kitten.” He swaggered up to me and kissed my cheek. “You might as well give it up.”
I pushed at his chest playfully. “One of these days you’re going to eat crow.”
“I doubt any of us will be around to see that.” Dawson grinned at his brother.
My heart stopped when I saw the two of them joking, and I forced my expression to remain the same, although I saw Daemon falter a little. Unaware of the importance of the exchange, Dawson knocked his hair back again and started toward the house.
“Race you, brother,” Dawson called.
Go, I mouthed at Daemon.
He sent me a quick smile and then trotted up to his brother. “You know you’re going to lose.”
“Probably, but hey, it’s good for your ego, right?”
Like he needed help with that, but I smiled and felt all warm and fuzzy as they joked and then took off. I waited a few minutes, cleared my thoughts, and then jogged back toward the house. At normal speed, it took about five minutes if I was adding correctly. Once at the tree line, I spun around and got ready. Feeling the Source snap loose, I launched forward.
I did it again and timed it.
A minute and thirty seconds the second trip back. I did it again and again, until my muscles burned along with my lungs and the five-minute jog took me fifty seconds. I didn’t think I could get any better than that.
And the funny thing was that even though my muscles were shaky, they didn’t hurt. Like I’d been running this way for years, and I pretty much ran from the front of the bookstore to the new release section and that was all.